How cold was it?

So, a few nights ago I decided to go out and visit Richard Donkle. I hadn’t seen him in what  seemed like a long time. It had snowed the previous night, about an inch, and it didn’t melt because the ground was so cold. Then the next night really cold weather blew in, what Mike calls an Alabama Clipper. I figured I could tolerate the cold and I headed straight for the Donkle’s, but as I went on I realized I had made a very poor choice. But by then it was too late because I was already halfway there, so it would be no faster to go back home. So, I decided to keep going. I hadn’t stopped to consider  that they might not let me in because they either wouldn’t be home or wouldn’t be in the kitchen to notice me. It just goes to show you that even wise middle-aged cats like me can make dumb decisions. I ran most of the way there without bothering too much about being evasive or finding cover and made it safely. I pawed at the sliding glass door to the kitchen and luckily Richie was in the kitchen and let me in.

“Well hello there Sambo,” he said. “Isn’t a little cold to be out and about?”

He reached down to pet me which I graciously allowed him to do momentarily. I even rubbed up against his leg a little bit.  I heard voices in the living room and I headed straight there. Richard and Bianca were sitting in the living room quietly, both of them reading. Richard was reading the Wall Street Journal and Bianca was reading something on a Kindle.

“Sambo, for goodness sakes I haven’t seen you for a while,” said Richard. “Isn’t it a little cold to be going out?”

I went and sniffed at both of them and he reached down to pet me. I jumped up on the white couch but Bianca shooed me off. Their maid, Ludmila, would have a fit if she found black hair on the sofa. They went back to reading, so I set about to explore things. I went downstairs to the theater room where Richie used to hang out with his girlfriend Hallie and their other friends. I didn’t get any whiff at all of anybody else besides the 4 people who lived in the house. Going back upstairs I encountered Joker who was in the laundry room having a big drink of water. He gave me a goofy grin and we sniffed at each other. I went on to the Donkle’s bedroom to check on Natasha and to see if she was in her usual place under the comforter on their bed. There was indeed a cat shaped lump under the comforter that smelled  like Natasha. Joker followed me around for a while until he lost interest. I went back to the living room and poked Richard’s leg until he got up and led me back into the kitchen saying, “Let’s see if we have some cream for you.”

“Don’t give him too much,” said Bianca calling after him. “He’ll get sick.”

“Sambo will be fine, won’t you Sambo?” Richard replied. He went to the refrigerator and got out a small carton. He took a small bowl out of the cupboard, put it on the floor, and put a little bit of cream in the bowl. It would’ve been nice if he had warmed it a little, but I didn’t have any way of telling him; and as they say, beggars can’t be choosers. I lapped it right up, and he enjoyed my enjoyment of the cream very much. After a while I was ready to leave, so I went over and pawed at the door.

“It’s too cold for you to go back outside,” said Richard. “You’ll have to spend the night here with us.”

I turned and looked at him as though he had lost his mind. But he was already headed back to the living room and didn’t see me. I prowled around some more, lurking near the kitchen in case somebody else walked in so I could be let out. After a while I started to think that maybe staying with the Donkle’s for the night wasn’t such a bad idea after all. It was plenty cold outside. Mike used to quote his father on the subject of how cold it was. Grandpa Moe used to say when it got really cold that it was colder than a well diggers ass in Siberia. I suppose that’s really cold, but I wouldn’t know. Anyway, I started checking out my options for a good spot to spend the night. As I’m sure you know, many cats enjoy sleeping with their people. Richard and Bianca’s bed was already occupied by Natasha whom I doubted would welcome me graciously. I could impose myself on her anyway but the confrontation did not seem worthwhile. Ludmila was definitely a poor choice. She hates me. The door to her room was already closed anyway. That was probably to my benefit. If she had already turned in I wouldn’t have to deal with her hostility until the morning. That left Richie. I had been in his room before. That was the time that Ludmila was chasing me with a mop and a lamp got knocked over by the side of his bed. So I  went to his room, and he was sitting in his chair looking at his phone. From time to time he would chuckle. I rubbed up against his leg and then jumped up on his bed. Eventually, he came to bed, turned off his light, and fell asleep; but I couldn’t get comfortable because of his tossing and turning. So, I went off to the laundry room where I had a drink of water, a snack of kibble, relieved myself in the litter box, and headed off to the living room to spend the night on the white couch.

You might think that I would know better than to antagonize Ludmila by leaving my hair all over the white couch. Actually, I didn’t think that much about it until it was too late. I’m not the sort of cat that would deliberately antagonize anybody just for the sake of it. There are cats like that. There are going to impose their will on the cats and people around them. There are people like that too. I’m sure you know some of them. My advice is to stay away from cats and people who care more about themselves than they do about anyone else. I have heard some people say that all cats think more about themselves than anyone else. I think it’s more that we are just very self-assured. I personally don’t mind sharing my territory with anyone who is willing to be nice. But let’s get one thing straight, it’s still my territory. And of course, this applies to wherever I happen to be at the time. I settled in for a good night sleep. I would deal with Ludmila in the morning.

Itching, Doctor King, and the Holy Land

So, we are in the middle of the dog days of winter, as I like to refer to them. We might be in Georgia, but I guarantee you it’s cold outside today. The humans are scratching themselves because their skin is so dry. Mike says that his skin has always itched. There isn’t a minute of his waking life when he is not itching someplace or other. He refers to it as the joke that God has played on him. In fact, he uses the itching sometimes to remind himself to meditate, and to think about God in a loving way. . He had a condition called eczema from infancy until he was in medical school,  but it pretty much has gone away. The only thing remaining is the itching. He has a skin lotion that he sometimes uses that’s made from colloidal oatmeal. It works well but Mike can’t reach his back any longer. It’s not that it’s any farther away from him than it used to be, but the range of motion of his shoulder joints has diminished. Judy got him some kind of a strap with loops on both ends. He applies  lotion to the strap, grasps one loop in each hand, reaches around behind himself, and applies the goop to his back. This works pretty well, but the lotion is so cold that Mike often would rather put up with the itching. Occasionally it disturbs his sleep, so he gets up and suffers the cold. He has some other kind of shmear that he puts on his face a couple of times a day. His face is by far the itchiest place on him. I wonder what that is all about. Michelle got him some skin lotion with the absurd name of “Yes to Carrots”. Mike doesn’t use it because it has a girly smell. Michelle was thinking it would be good because it has according to her, salt from the Dead Sea in it.

Mike and Michelle went down to the Dead Sea in 1993 when they went to Israel to visit relatives. In case you didn’t know it, the Dead Sea is a large body of water which is over 1000 feet below sea level. It is the lowest place on earth as far as elevation (or lack of it) is concerned. It is located in the desert at the border between Israel and Jordan. In fact, the River Jordan flows into it. When Mike and Michelle were there they went swimming in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea really isn’t exactly water. It’s water with a lot of minerals dissolved in it. Because of the high concentration of minerals if you go swimming in it you pop up to the top like a cork and float on top of the water with ease. Despite that fact, when Mike got in he was thrashing around like a dying fish, and splashed this mineral water stuff in Michelle’s eye. They had to get out and irrigate her eye with fresh water. Michelle forgave him though; she is very sweet. Mike remembers on the walk from the parking lot to the Dead Sea being approached by a couple of young Palestinian boys, probably around age 18. It turns out that if you’re an American you stand out like a sore thumb there. Mike recalls that they asked him what he thought about President Clinton. Mike had more sense than to get into a political discussion in that situation so he made some sort of benign remark. The boys wanted to know where Mike was from and  he didn’t mind telling him that he was from Atlanta. It was a friendly conversation. There is a significant industry at the Dead Sea in mining the mud and selling it as a treatment for psoriasis and other skin diseases. So, apparently there is something to the idea of putting Dead Sea salt in a skin lotion product. What it has to do with carrots I’m not sure.

That was Mike’s first trip to Israel. It is probably hard for non-Jewish people to fully grasp the significance of the Jewish homeland to a Jewish person.  For one thing, Jews who take the Bible as the Word of God believe it was promised to them. It seems to be a very deeply felt, gut level, maybe even a DNA driven energy force. In one sense this characteristic is not a particularly Jewish one. I think all social groups are deeply attached to a homeland. You may have heard the expression “American by birth and Southern by the grace of God.” It is on the same gene as tribalism, I guess. It is seen in cats as the establishment of a territory.  Dogs are even more territorial than we are. Come to think of it, it must be related to the survival instinct. We all need a home to be warm, raise our young, and protect our families. More about this another time.

Jerusalem  is an ancient city of great significance to people of all 3 of the Abrahamic religions. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all deeply attached to it. Mike went back to Israel when his brother was so sick and ultimately died a few years ago. He went there again with Judy the following year. Their relatives  were very warm and welcoming. One day they went back down to the Dead Sea. This time though they went to the Jordan River a short distance upstream from the Sea.. There is a location there where Jesus was said to have been baptized by John the Baptist. There is a small church on the Jordanian side, and on the Israeli side of the river there is an area for people to congregate, contemplate, and pray. Mike says he doesn’t think the river was wider than 30 or 40 feet. He said the water was very muddy in appearance. They sat on some bleachers and watched the people. Sitting quietly behind them were 2 Israeli border guards armed with Uzis. They saw 2 families there from Indiana, Mennonites, who were baptizing their children and singing gospel music. Mike’s niece went down and talked to them. She even stepped into the water. It was a lovely day. It must have been a very spiritually moving experience.

Today is the national celebration of the birthday of Doctor Martin Luther King. Mike recalls vividly the day he was shot. It was a terrible day. He was living in Madison, Wisconsin at the time. He says it was during his black hole period. I’ll talk more about this time in his life later if Mike wants me to. Doctor King was a great man who believed in the dignity and equality of all peoples. As a Christian minister he had a deep sense of the importance of the Jewish people and of the land of Israel in God’s plan. He spoke frequently about the importance of the state of Israel as a bastion of democracy in that part of the world. He was also very frank about anti-Semitism. He said “When people criticize the Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.” There is a street in Jerusalem called Martin Luther King St. If you go there you will see the street sign in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. I said a little bit about Doctor King in my blog at this time last year entitled “An Auguration.” It was published on January 15, 2017. You might want to take a quick look at it.

The gospel read in church yesterday was from John. It read: “Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him,’Can anything good come out of Nazareth (that shithole)?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ ” I added the parenthetical phrase myself, but no doubt most of the congregations across the county did so mentally. (See my most recent post, “So, What Shithole Country Do You Come From?”)  I hope you are not offended. Mike belongs to a group that encourages restraint of tongue and pen. This is no doubt an excellent principle to live by; but sometimes I follow it, and sometimes I don’t. If I have offended your Christian sensibilities, you can thank me, because when you forgive me, as you must, you get one step closer to godliness. See, it is all about Love.

Mike and Judy have started giving us wet food morning and evening. I usually don’t bother with it. I would rather catch me a mouse or something. Ladybug will eat a little bit just to be polite. Shayna Maidel goes after it like she hasn’t eaten for weeks. The whole point of this is to get some Miralax into Jackson so he won’t get all stopped up again. He has still been passing these hard dry nutmeg seed-like poos and probably throwing up more than the other cats. Of course we all throw up sometimes. We have to get rid of the hairballs, and also we need to give the people we live with something to do. All 4 of us have our own funny litter box routines. Ladybug is still very private in her personal habits. In the several years that she has lived here I don’t think she’s been seen in the litter box more than a half a dozen times. And Mike says that he’s never seen her take a drink of water.

Well, I shouldn’t natter on. I hope you have a blessed day, and take a few minutes to meditate. That’s all the news from Happy Meadows.


So, what shithole country do you come from?

So, what shithole country do you come from? This is a question I never would have particularly thought of asking anyone but in his final act as resignation as moral leader of the free world, Spoiled Donald started a whole conversation yesterday about shithole countries. Mike never thought that Spoiled Donald was a racist until yesterday. He thought that he was just a spoiled, elitist, misogynistic, immature, ignorant, xenophobic, alt-right sympathizing bullshit artist. But when he learned that the shithole countries he identified are populated primarily by black people and the desirable country that he identified, Norway, is populated largely by white people, he finally conceded that Spoiled Donald is also a racist. Maybe I shouldn’t have just said all that, but one of the great things about the USA is that people (and cats) get to speak their mind. Even Spoiled Donald gets to.

My own ancestors are said to have come from Africa, although there is also evidence of origination of the domestic cat from wild forebears in the Middle East. They were wild animals who subsisted on hunting rodents and other small creatures. Cats and people started living near each other when the African peoples, particularly in North Africa,  started farming and storing grain. The cats came around the granaries to kill  and eat the rats and mice who were feeding on the grain, and in this way came in contact with people, developing a symbiotic relationship with them. Most anthropologists believe that the human race, including Norwegians, originally also came from Africa. There are also people who believe that the human race as we know it today evolved in the Middle East; but certainly not in Norway.

There is a breed of cats called the Norwegian forest cat or skogkatt, which is native to Norway. These cats must also have originated in Africa. They no doubt were taken aboard ships by the Vikings to kill rats and thus very likely arrived in the Americas as early as the 900s CE. It is inconceivable that they failed to reach dry land and start their own colonies. There may or may not have been other cats around in the Americas at that time. But as a breed of cats they did not persist in the wild. Since there are no genetic forebears of domestic cats (or people) in the Americas, all cats here were brought from elsewhere, mostly on ships. There is a reliable record of a pet female cat who came to America aboard the Mayflower. Mike thinks that the Maine Coon cat probably has a lot of Norwegian forest cat in it. The Main Coons are  large, long-haired cats that come in all colors. The 1st pair of Norwegian forest cats that were considered to be purebred were brought to the Americas in 1979 and have been recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association as a registered breed since 1984. They are large, long-haired, beautiful cats, and interestingly enough, come in virtually every color including all-black and all-white, although most of them are some variety of brown tabby. So whether you’re a cat or a person from Norway, as desirable as you might be to the well-being of the United States of America, you’re still originally from Africa, that continent of shithole countries.

Mike says that he has some empathy for Spoiled Donald, who typically says the first thing that comes to his mind with no apparent filter. Mike said he himself used to be like that when he was 14 years old. He said it was a struggle but he finally was able to put a lid on it by the time he got into his late 20s or early 30s. But some people retain their 14-year-old personalities throughout their lifetime. Some people don’t even mature out to 14. It’s not that attractive.

So, as I said in my last post, I’ve been meaning to go visit Popo. You may remember her. She is a neighbor in Happy Meadows who lives with her mother, Mrs. Wilson. Popo has cerebral palsy. I had heard that they got a couple of parrots and I wanted to go see them. And believe me, I had no interest in eating parrots. I was just being neighborly. I had mentioned Popo in my post entitled “Popo”  published June 17, 2017. Somewhat interestingly considering the topic du jour, Mrs. Wilson, Popo’s mother, is originally from Haiti, another shithole country. The kind of parrots they have are called Solomon Island Eclectus.  The Solomon Island part is easy to figure out. I think the Eclectus comes from the fact that they are sexually dimorphic, the males being primarily green and the females being primarily blue and red. I’ll put a couple of pictures up for you.


These are Jennie on the left, and Ollie on the right. Jennie is the girl, and Ollie is the boy. Mrs. Wilson and Popo got these parrots several weeks ago. They are about a year old. Jennie is talking quite a bit, and Ollie has started to say a few words. As you can see these are beautiful birds. Some Eclectus parrots will do most of their talking when they’re by themselves, and not when there are people around. They must get bored. I imagine I would be bored if I never left the house. They are free to move about the house. They have  cages, but the doors are always left open. Jennie tends to stay in her cage a lot. In the wild the female Eclectus parrot spends most of her life in a nest that she has fashioned in a hole of a hollow tree. She will defend to the death any attempt by another female to take the hole away from her. Males will bring the females food and mate with them. It’s an interesting barter system. The only thing that male cats are required to bring to females is their charm and personality. Of course, since I was tutored, my interest in females has been strictly platonic. I suppose I should feel bad about it but I really don’t. Not being driven by testosterone has freed me up to appreciate the world in a more benign and eclectic way. What do you know, there’s that word again.

So, I went over to the Wilson’s and scratched at the door until Mrs. Wilson let me in. I nosed around a little bit and jumped up on Popo’s lap. She had a big smile for me and tried to pet me in her awkward sort of way. The birds were out of their cages but they gave me plenty of room. I acted very disinterested in them to try to put them more at ease. After a while, Jennie began a series of chirps and clicks and said very distinctly “Popo.” What was fascinating about this is that she didn’t say it distinctly at all, really. What she did was say “Popo” exactly the same way that Popo said it. She got the  dysarthric pronunciation and vocal tone nearly to perfection. Amazing! Then she would say things like “pretty girl,” let’s eat,” and “bed time.” These were all said in Mrs. Wilson’s voice, complete with her Haitian accent. You should have been there. Popo was delighted. If you’re interested, you can go on YouTube and see some videos of these birds talking. I think you should. You would love it.

After an hour or so I got restless and after a couple of pieces of Party Mix from Mrs. Wilson I went on my way. As I was walking home there was a curve in the road and there was a gathering of 4 or 5 adolescent male squirrels at the edge of the road. All of a sudden, one of the squirrels said to the others (in squirrel of course) “watch this.” Just then a car appeared coming around the curve and he dashed out in front of it across the street making it safely to the other side. Gloating from the other side of the street he said to the others, “Come on you try it.” Pretty soon another car came along and another squirrel shot across the street in front of  it, barely missing the tires. Before long all the squirrels had proven their manhood and none of them had been flattened. It looked like fun but I really don’t recommend the behavior. “Hey, watch this!” are famous last words. Well, these will be my last words for now. This is all the news from Happy Meadows for today. And if you have an opportunity and the timing is right, see if you can tell Spoiled Donald to grow up. It’s not funny anymore.































































You can’t be too careful.

So, it was really cold last night and I came in early. It was New Year’s Eve and Mike was asleep by 10 PM instead of his usual 10:30. He and Judy were both awakened at midnight when the local yokels set off their fireworks. But just at dusk I had a close call. I was making my usual rounds and was a couple of streets over from home when I spotted a squirrel. I wasn’t that hungry, but out of habit I was stalking it. He was completely unaware of me and was sniffing around for seeds or something when suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, a great horned owl swooped down, grabbed the little guy in his talons, and flew off with him. I absolutely did not see or hear the owl until he was upon that squirrel. If the squirrel had not been there he could just as well have grabbed me. That would have been a shame, because I love my life and I have so much more to say. It just goes to show you that you can’t take anything for granted, especially your life and your health. Damn, that was close!

I got home just as Judy and Mike were getting  home. They had gone out to eat and made a wonderful discovery. A Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant has opened not terribly far from where we live. The Mellow Mushroom is a restaurant chain that was founded  in Atlanta in 1974, and has been a favorite of theirs. However, the closest place to them had closed 4 or 5 years ago. Sad! Mike has to be careful about eating too much pizza because of his reflux, but he was cautious and made it through the night last night just fine. He has been known to wake up in the middle of the night with acid in his throat and coughing and groaning for the next several hours. Mike and I came down to the computer this morning getting ready to work on this story and there was some kind of a problem which took a couple of hours and some money to resolve but we’re back in business again.

So, last week when Mike was dictating a report using his voice recognition software, he ran into a problem that happens all the time. Mike uses this cheap software program that he got for less than $100. He had an opportunity to buy the professional medical package which would’ve had the names of all the diseases, drugs, and so on for $2500 but he passed. So if he dictates a word that’s not in the software’s memory bank,  it puts together something as best as it can. Mike was dictating about a patient whose primary care physician had put her on a medication for weight loss called Belviq. The voice recognition software substituted Bill Veeck.

For those of you who don’t know, Bill Veeck was a baseball entrepreneur and showman who had quite a colorful career. He definitely thought outside of the box and wasn’t afraid to be outrageous (or visionary, depending on your point of view.). Bill had grown up in Chicago where his father was president of the Chicago Cubs. Oddly enough, his father was originally a sportswriter who wrote a number of highly critical articles about the way the team had been run and the team’s owner, William Wrigley Junior, told him if he thought he could do it better he ought to try, and he hired him. The younger Veeck worked in various menial capacities for the Cubs including selling popcorn. He claimed to have had the idea for planting ivy on the walls at Wrigley Field. This may or may not be true, as would apply to many of his later claims. In 1942 along with Charlie Grimm he bought the triple A level Milwaukee Brewers which was his 1st venture into baseball ownership. Subsequently, he bought the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and was twice owner of the Chicago White Sox. While owner of the St. Louis Browns, he pulled a stunt by hiring a little person, Eddie Gaedel,, and put him in a game as a pinch hitter. Eddie was 3’7″ tall. He made a single plate appearance and drew a walk on 4 pitches. He was replaced by a pinch runner at 1st base, but not before stopping twice on the way to first base and bowing to the crowd. About 10 years earlier, James Thurber wrote a short story called “You Could Look It Up”  in which a little person was put in as a pinch-hitter in a ballgame. Veeck denied getting the idea from Thurber’s story and he may not have. The next day Gaedel’s contract was voided by the American League. The American League president, Will Harridge, said that Veeck was making a mockery of the game. In response, Veeck  said he was going to request a ruling by the league of whether Phil Rizzuto was a short shortstop or a tall dwarf.

Another thing worth knowing about Bill Veeck was that he was a veteran of World War II where he saw combat and was wounded. He had several operations on his leg and ultimately had an above-knee amputation. Mike remembers him tromping around Comiskey Park back in the ’50s on his wooden leg, smoking cigarettes and putting them out in an ashtray that he had cut into the prosthesis. He was also known to enjoy a drink or more every now and then.

Veeck was also a very early advocate of racial integration in baseball. While owner of the Cleveland Indians in 1947, he signed the 1st African-American ballplayer in the American League, Larry Doby. Veeck also used to tell a story of taking an overnight train in 1942 to Philadelphia to  buy the Philadelphia Phillies. He was close to an agreement but decided to let the major league baseball commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, know of his intentions to integrate. Supposedly, he was going to bring on a number of players from the Negro leagues to play for the Phillies. When Veeck got to Philadelphia on the overnight train he learned that the deal was off. Some or all of this story could well be a  fabrication. What is true is that as I write this, I’m no more than 3 miles away from Kennesaw Mountain here in Marietta, Georgia. I’m sure there must have been a good reason to name a little baby boy for a mountain, but right now I can’t think of what it might have been. I’m glad he wasn’t named for Grandfather Mountain. That would have been weird.

And speaking of Kennesaw, did you know that it is required by city ordinance in the city of Kennesaw to own a firearm? The city Council of Kennesaw took this action as a way of mocking the gun control ordinance passed in 1982 in Morton Grove, Illinois which banned the possession of firearms.

So, I heard that Popo Wilson just got a couple of parrots for Christmas. I will have to drop by soon to see them, and get some pictures for you. Until then, have a great day, and of course, happy new year! Mike is about to go downstairs to watch the Rose Bowl.  I never thought I would say this, but Go Dogs!